Clontarf Cycle Route set to be best route on main road in Ireland, but…

— Will be first continuous centre-to-suburbs segregated route in any Irish city.

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Below are the latest images showing the planned Clontarf Cycle Route from Amiens Street to the S2S Dublin Bay cycle route at Clontarf — it’s set to be Ireland best cycle route on a main road, but there’s some details that need fixing.

The latest drawings were posted online by Cllr Naoise Ó Muirí:

As we have previously reported, the planned 2.7km section will link with the existing 8km stretch of the S2S North and will form Dublin’s first segregated cycle route running continuously from the city centre to the suburbs. The approved Clontarf route ends outside Connolly train station, but there are yet-to-be published plans also to extend the route to the quays.

The route is of high-quality, but some of the main issues include:

  • Critical questions over junction design at different junctions and of different types.
  • The need to segregate some non-segregated crossings.
  • The need to segregate transitions between this route and the Royal Canal Route.
  • Are these stepped cycle tracks or cycle paths level with the road but kerb segregated or a mix?
  • There’s also question marks over the width of the cycle path — it’s unclear from these drawings if there’s any issues or not. The aim should be 2.2m min and 2.5 where possible, as per the GDA Cycle Network and international guidance.

This is the southern end of the route at Connolly Station and the junction of Talbot Street — the cycle lane at the entrance to Talbot Street needs to be segregated to allow for the safe entry of cyclist into the street at the same time buses are turning:

Below is the junction with Buckingham Street Lower and Foley Street.

The crossing here looks to be a shared toucan crossing — this should be replaced with separate crossings for people walking and cycling.

Foley Street probably is wide enough for contra-flow cycling without lanes, all it needs is entry/exit treatments at both ends. A contra-flow cycle lane can be easily be provided on Buckingham Street Lower and this would aid to calming the motor traffic on the street, the current width is way too wide for a 30km/h street. The current project should allow for cycling access to both streets in both directions.

At the very least, cycling access needs to be provided from the current flow of Foley Street into the cycle route, for people going both north and south.

Much of the detail of the project is spot on — besides the junctions which need addressing still, if BusConnects had this project’s high quality and continuous cycling provision, there would be a lot less to complain about BusConnects and cycling.

Care needs to be taken with bus stop design — a short but notable distance, where crossing is restricted, needs to be provided between the shelter and the crossing points to help with the line of sight.

Below is the Five Lamps junction which links the route with the North Circular Road.

As we’ve previously reported, a number of junctions on the route have been referred to in the media as “Dutch-style”, but a number of countries have failed to properly translate the Dutch protected junction design. From the still images it is so-far unclear how exactly the protected planned cycle path junctions will work with the traffic light sequencing.

Dublin City Council have also yet to answer questions from this website about how the junction will work. Half-copying the Dutch design could cause conflict between people cycling and driving and people walking too. The design as planned looks worrying like a design in New Zealand, which the excellent BicycleDutch website describes as getting it wrong.

Getting this design wrong could set back protected junctions in Ireland by years or even decades.

Below, to the left, is the junction with the planned Royal Canal Greenway — there should be segregation on the crossing and between the two cycle routes. This would be better for pedestrians and people cycling, not just the latter.

At different points along the route while looking at drawings I’m asking: Are these stepped cycle tracks or cycle paths level with the road but kerb segregated or a mix? Which should they be? For example, between the crossings below, would it be better to keep the cycle route on the level of the road and segregate with a kerb between the bus lane and cycle path?

In the Netherlands where there are level changes you hardly if ever notice them, but many cycle paths are on the level of the road with kerbs dividing them.

If possible, the designers should look at segregating the bus lane from the general traffic lane so that motorists turning into side roads are making a wider turn and have a better line of sight with the cycle track.

Uncontrolled junction design which gives cycle paths priority work best with some distance of buffer between the roadway and the cycle paths, like these:

Clearly such a buffer is not possible along a lot of this route, but at higher-frequency junctions like the below one, such a buffer is vital and safety critical. And there is ample space here:

The junction with East Wall Road shown below has the same issues as those mentioned in the Five Lamps junction covered above.

…although, most of the corners on this junction look a bit more like the Dutch design than the Five Lamps junction design does.

Note: The corner of the bottom left hand cycling turn from East Wall Road towards the city centre is nearly 90 degrees which is too tight for turning, especially longer bicycles.

Here again there should be a segregated crossing for walking and cycling:

At this and other junctions further below, the designers are using an inventive way to run the cycle route flows with the large amount of motor traffic entering and exiting Fairview Strand.

However, this design is much more likely to work for everybody if there are separate pedestrian crossings of the roadway and cycle paths. This can be done with zebra crossing over the cycle path (with or without beacons as in London) or with standard pedestrian crossings like on London’s Embankment cycle route.

Like mentioned above, this design is again more likely to work with separate crossings of the cycle paths and the roadway:

This will be messy if there are not a redesign — it does not look like there’s enough turning space or waiting space for people cycling.

 

This also doesn’t look like it’s workable without adjustments including reducing the Howth Road to one lane in each direction at the junction to make space for people cycling to waiting.

At the bottom left the there should be a buffer space between the cycle path and the bus lane, especially given the curve in the flow of buses through the junction.

This bicycle roundabout should be removed and replaced with a simple T-junction as used across the Netherlands where busy two-way cycle paths meet.

BicycleDutch has written about how bicycle-only roundabouts are overkill in design terms, not once but twice — see: here and here.

Overall, it’s a fantastic project but the junctions and a few other details need to be sorted.

I am editor of IrishCycle.com and have reported on and commented on cycling in Ireland for over a decade. My background is in journalism -- I have a BA in Journalism from DCU and HDip in Print Journalism from BCFE. I wrote about cycling for national newspapers, and then started CyclingInDublin.com for overflow stories. Later the website was re-branded to reflect a more national focus.

13 Comments

  1. Dear Dublin City Council (or whoever it is that’s in charge of the project). Cars are inefficient at moving people in an urban environment. They’re dangerous, wasteful and polluting. We need better ways at getting most people around cheaply, sustainably and efficiently. Luckily we have such a mode = bikes.

    It’s great to see that the proposed cycle-route finally seems to be going in the direction of taking bikes seriously as a mode of transport and not just a niche hobby. However, as Irish Cycle points out, there are a number of issues with the plan. My suggestion is: Hire a Dutch firm to review the plans and tell them to offer their solutions to any potential issues.

    Just do that. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Don’t try to rediscover how to make fire all on your own without any tinder. Just ask those who already know how to do it. The proposed route is almost there; let’s get it all the way there.

  2. These designs look awesome. A tricky job to balance the space requirements of each mode (even on paper!) Respect to the designers in AECOM + Roughan O’Donovan.

    Many thanks Cian to you and Naoise for posting.

    Agree with you on most of your comments, but not sure about separate crossings of cycle lane, then motor lane for pedestrians -wouldn’t it be intolerably slow for pedestrians to wait for separate signal?

    Already we Dubliners rarely observe ‘red man’ signal as wait times are often ridiculously long.

    Cheers

  3. For me, and at this stage of development, these negative comments are unhelpful, and pithy! This proposed design is first class, with possibly some minor issues, many of which can and will be sorted at construction stage. Why not highlight some of the great features of this designed route instead, which will make it a joy for everyday cyclists of all ages to use!?
    This is not helpful to put these negative comments into the public domain. The word ‘balance’ comes to mind!!

  4. I agree, but by all means try and raise these issues with the designers as in my experience plenty of “sort on site” issues from an early draft end up becoming set in stone. But it’s difficult to provide feedback without it sounding negative, and people who aren’t involved in construction don’t understand that criticism is a normal part of a successful job.

  5. Cheers Brian….through our (Dublin Cycling Campaign) representation on the route monitoring committee these issues are being raised. And just to note that this has been the fruit of a long 4 year battle to get to this much improved route design!

  6. Looks pretty excellent, thanks for the analysis Cian.

    I think lessons will be learned over time, and designs will improve. As the article states, this will be the best city cycling infrastructure in Ireland. The only thin I would change is the mini-roundabout, which seems a bit unnecessary.

    The Mayo Greenway was best, until the Waterford one was built. I expect the Royal Canal cycleway will be better than the Grand Canal.

  7. @Will — re the separate crossings for pedestrians — my preference is zebra crossings (beacons or not) which means little or no delay for pedestrians. Fully signalised pedestrian crossing also don’t need to mean a long delay, pedestrian crossings can be as reactive as we want them to be.

    @Colm — Re balance: There’s a number of examples of balance in the article, includes:

    (1) The headline: “CLONTARF CYCLE ROUTE SET TO BE BEST ROUTE ON MAIN ROAD IN IRELAND”

    (2) Part of the opening paragraph: “it’s set to be Ireland best cycle route on a main road, but there’s some details that need fixing.”

    (3) Within the article: “Much of the detail of the project is spot on — besides the junctions which need addressing still, if BusConnects had this project’s high quality and continuous cycling provision, there would be a lot less to complain about BusConnects and cycling.”

    (4) The ending of the article: “Overall, it’s a fantastic project but the junctions and a few other details need to be sorted.”

    As Brian points out criticism is a normal part of a successful job. In the case of this website and the point of journalism in this context is to make the comments and have the debate in public.

    The issues with the junctions different types are not minor in nature if it’s not addressed.

  8. I am guessing that by bringing off-road cycle tracks inside main junction traffic sign control, the intention is to hold cyclists on red lights at the same time as traffic on the same approach. This would be a mistake as it would not permit bicycle free-flow for left-turns or at the top of the “T” at T-junctions.

    Off-road (or protected) cycle tracks do not need signal control where footpaths intersect with cycle tracks: signals are only needed to control interactions with or between motorised vehicles. That is how the Dutch do it and any argument that Dutch practice is not the gold-standard for design, is weak. What will happen in reality with this scheme is 99% of cyclists will ignore red lights when they are staying “off-road” and this is a problem because the design philosophy is therefore flawed if it encourages and normalises light-breaking as part of normal operation of the junction.

  9. The current cycle path beginning at Clontarf – ending at Sutton is approx.14km not 8Km.

  10. Google Maps says it’s 8.3km from around the bicycle roundabout to the end of the existing cycle route before Sutton Cross.

  11. Hi Cian, My apologies on that. Brilliant site thanks for it. I was thinking Sutton to city centre, not just the cycle path so I was wrong. But what “cycle roundabout”? is it you mention.Is it the start of the cycle track at corner of East Wall road and Alfie Byrne road, which is where I understand the cycle track to starts?Or at the end of Alfie Byrne road at Clontarf? Thanks.That said, Google maps can be a little bit off at times also. Keep up the great work. You are providing an excellent service to all cyclists and it is greatly valued and much appreciated.

  12. Is it sad that I’m so excited about this, even in its current form?

  13. @Mark — definitely!

    This article is just looking for details to be right so it will be safe and attractive to as many people, but overall it will be a massive improvement.

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